Southern Tea Cakes

Makes about 3 dozen

Tea cakes have an African American history dating back to the 1600s. They’re an easy and delicious traditional cookie served on the Juneteenth holiday – not as sweet as sugar cookies and with a softer texture. 


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature 
  • ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature 
  • 2 tsp fine lemon zest 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt 
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg 
  • Granulated sugar for sprinkling 


Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. 

In a bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, mix until combined. Pour in buttermilk, vanilla extract and lemon zest and mix again until combined. 

In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. You may need to mix the last of the dry ingredients in by hand since the dough can get quite thick. 

Divide dough into four portions. Roll each portion on a lightly floured surface to ¼ thickness. Using round biscuit cutter, cut dough into 2 ½ inch rounds.  

Place on prepared baking sheets, about one inch apart. Lightly sprinkle tops with additional sugar.  

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until edges start turning golden and bottoms slightly browned. 

Remove to rack, cool completely. Store in tightly covered container for up to a week.